What an extraordinary year we had at Smiling Albino! It was our biggest yet, and thank YOU for helping make us one of the coolest travel companies on the planet. YOU are what makes running this company fun.
The Trouble with Bucket Lists
At the start of each New Year we seem to be inundated with idea of things we want to do differently; dieting, working less, or checking off things from our “bucket list”.
It has occurred to me that the recent craze for checking things off bucket lists rarely results in meaningful travel. We once received a request for a bucket list trip featuring 6 major SE Asia cities in less than 10 days, as well as a botanical garden someone’s friend had read about, and lunch at a place that had good reviews on the internet. At Smiling Albino, we obsess over flow and sound logistics, and we take time to know what works and what doesn’t, and sometimes this gets in the way of bucket lists. It’s a great thing to know of destinations you just have to visit, like Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia, or an elephant conservation experience in Northern Thailand, or learning cooking in a medieval Vietnamese town, but racing through these experiences is certainly NOT the best way to really say you’ve been there!
My advice: part of your holiday should be spent exploring like you did in your new neighbourhood when you first moved in. Meet a shop owner, stroll through lanes, sip coffee and watch and learn. Let us also take you off the beaten path to places that are most likely not on anyone’s bucket list (except perhaps our own). We take great pride in showing you those ‘must see’ places and it’s there you’ll uncover the true ‘gem experiences’ of any trip.
Happy New Year – I look forward to having a drink with you somewhere in Asia this year!
Smiling Albino Adventurer-in-Chief
Chiang Mai: Escape the city on two wheels
You’ve asked for it and we’ve answered! We have complied the greatest hits, and now have introduced some of our top Chiang Mai day trips online. Check them out here
Our classic full day city experience is designed to seek out essential highlights such as Chiang Mai’s famous Lanna temples, walking streets and local markets, as well as all the chic galleries and boutiques along Nimmanhaemin Road. Also, a new trip we have refined, is a great way to escape the city and see the other side of the North, on a countryside bicycle trip along the Ping River crossing through quaint villages and lush nature.
For guests with more time we have customized everything from caving to cooking, rafting to Thai boxing and holistic elephant sanctuaries. Combining several day trips together provides a full Chiang Mai experience with activity, culture, and fun.
Arrive into Saigon in Style – By River and Cyclo
Saigon is a busting city that moves at break neck speed – except some of the main routes from the airport into the city! So, with smooth logistics and a bit of excitement in mind we have developed an enlightening way to cruise into the essence of Saigon in style. With an early arrival at Than Son Nhat airport we can by-pass the gridlock and go straight to an old boat pier and arrange a private boat to cruise right through the city.
Mangrove communities give way to modern bridges and urban development as we bisect the town center and continue to old Cholon, home to Vietnam’s largest ethnic Chinese population. We’ll take a walking trip through narrow streets and Chinese spice shops. This is where a brilliant cacophony of old world and new collide in front of our eyes, as we take an eye-popping cyclo trip across town to District 1, the heart of modern Saigon.
What’s Going On
Phuket’s Newest Ultra Luxury property: Iniala
Iniala Phuket is a recently opened exclusive luxury beach experience on quiet Natai Beach. Stunning, creative villas have been exclusively designed by an impressive host of internationally acclaimed designers. Their restaurant is overseen by Eneko Atxa, whose latest restaurant in Spain received three Michelin stars. Iniala represents a new class of ultra-luxury retreats. A stay in their exclusive villas come with a driver, butler, chef, spa therapist and housekeeper. Prices begin near $5,000USD per night.
One of the first things that comes to mind when speaking of Thailand is elephants. Thailand offers an incredible range of elephant experiences, from holistic conservation programs that enable guests to support the livelihood of an elephant and his mahout handlers, to short programs where families take part in learning the skills of the mahout themselves. We’ve helped many of our guests over the years have meaningful and sustainable experiences with these pachyderms, and it most often counts as one of their lifetime memories of SE Asia. Contact us to help arrange a special moment! See some photos of what the experience is like on our online web gallery here.
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